the goons in rangoon

27 Sep

I haven’t written about the democracy protests in Burma. This is not because I don’t care, naturally I do care when people demand freedom and representation in the face of a crackpot military dictatorship; I just haven’t had chance to catch up with the detail.

I’m still no expert of course, but I do have few things to say about liberty in general, and the its subtle erosion in this and many countries.

The protests in Burma are further proof – if it were needed – that people now view democracy and political freedom as a basic human right (this wasn’t always the case, and still, many religious fundamentalists view democracy with disdain). It also highlights how those in the free world take their own hard-fought rights for granted.

When over 40% of the UK population decide voting is not a priority, we can hardly argue when the elected government act like a shower of shit, can we? And Labour have, on occasion, acted like complete bastards with regard to liberty. Under Blair we saw a succession of increasingly authoritarian Home Secretaries who pandered to a rabid rightwing press. We have also seen anti-democratic limits on the right of peaceful protest under the umbrella of fighting terrorism. Rights that seemed so fundamental only 10-years ago – such as the respectful public announcement of war dead – can now lead to arrest.

Of course all this is a long way from the actions of the military junta in Burma, who have now fired in anger on the crowds of monks and democrats. Yet, one only has to read the history books of the twentieth century to see how hysteria and mass-suspicion can lead to totalitarianism in even the most politically ‘mature’ of countries. The political expedience that has led to an obsession with terrorism (at the expense of concentrating on economic and wider social points of order) is diverting the public from issues their politicians have no answer to.

The other day I watched the movie V For Vendetta again. The film gives account of a fictional totalitarian state in near-future Britain. Some of the parallels between the founding of that fascist regime, and the current terror-obsessed politics are stark. I’m not suggesting we’ll be under a Stalinist yoke within a few years. We won’t. But I do think we should be wary of politicians who use dog-whistle issues to close down legitimate protest – as has been the case in the Blair era and in Bush’s United States.

The people in Burma are risking their lives because they know life without freedom. It is no life. We should be rightly concerned about all curbs on our liberties. When politicians argue that changes are small, necessary, and immaterial, we should resist until a robust argument has been made. We should always resist. Increases in state power are always subtle at first, but their number and severity grow in time.

More: If you’re looking for Burma specific comment, try Justin. And Mr. Eugenides has some excellent links.

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2 Responses to “the goons in rangoon”

  1. pepeperez67@hotmail.com September 30, 2007 at 6:26 am #

    What is the rest of the world doing about this? Just filling columns in the media, voicing their worries in audio-visual means, but effectively, effectively they re doing nothing. Bush has threatened with sanctions, but the revolt in Burma has been quashed and no sanctions have been carried out.I wonder where the Burmese army is getting their weapons from, weapons that are killing innocent people who demand, as it could not be otherwise, their full liberty.

  2. pepeperez67@hotmail.com September 30, 2007 at 6:26 am #

    What is the rest of the world doing about this? Just filling columns in the media, voicing their worries in audio-visual means, but effectively, effectively they re doing nothing. Bush has threatened with sanctions, but the revolt in Burma has been quashed and no sanctions have been carried out.I wonder where the Burmese army is getting their weapons from, weapons that are killing innocent people who demand, as it could not be otherwise, their full liberty.

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